The Redskins and the Patriots meet Sunday at Fed Ex in a game being billed as the battle between the offensive genius of Steve Spurrier vs the defensive genius of Bill Belicheck. Both coaches will have to find ways to get players in the following match-ups to win their individual battles:
During preseason just about everybody agreed that the Redskins had made some solid moves and had improved the quality of the team. However, they said, all that signing money and new talent would be wasted if inexperienced 2nd year QB Pat Ramsey could not rise to the challenge of being installed as the starting QB in an offense which demands a lot from the position.
While 3 weeks does not a season make, so far Ramsey has done everything the Redskins faithful could have expected of him – and then some.
The stats are impressive – he leads the league in passing yardage with 889 and has 5 TD passes versus just 2 INTs. In the last two games, he has thrown for more than 300 yards, and complimented by a solid running game, the Redskins have the No.1 ranked offense in the NFL. Even more impressive than the stats has been the maturity and poise that Ramsey has shown in all three games thus far. He has looked like a genuine game winner, a QB who can make plays when he has to, and raise the performance of his team mates through his own excellence. In the last two games the ‘Skins have spotted opponents 17 and 18 point leads – only for Ramsey to bring them back to win the first game and tie the second only to lose it in overtime.
Redskin fans always knew Ramsey had the rocket right arm, he showed last year how tough he was and all reports were, that in the off season his understanding of the offense had advanced leaps and bounds. Nothing underlines his confidence and control of what is going on around him more than his awareness and movement in the pocket. He is still prepared to sit in the pocket and take the hit to get a pass off – but he is now aware of when he has held the ball long enough and has shown much better than expected mobility in moving around in the pocket and taking off to pick up very useful yardage on the ground in key situations.
Nobody now questions the Redskins use of a 1st round pick on Ramsey. They look to have found a guy that you can build a championship team around.
This week Washington face a QB that has already won a championship in Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady.
Brady was the back up to Pro Bowl QB Drew Bledsoe. In Brady’s second year Bledsoe was injured early and Michigan grad Brady stepped in to lead them not just to a playoff year but to a Super Bowl victory in which he picked up the MVP honours.
Brady has excellent size for a QB at 6-4and 225. He is essentially a pocket passer – he can move around in the pocket but much like Pat Ramsey he looks to throw, and runs only as a last resort. His strength is his confidence and poise and the accuracy of his passing. He is a streak passer, when he gets hot he is hot – but he can also get cold. He does have decent arm strength but does not posses the gun that Ramsey has. He tends to throw shorter timing passes only airing it out when he has the match up he wants.
This term, Brady had a very slow start throwing 4 ints in a shut out on opening day against the Bills. However he followed that up with a 3 TD performance in a win against the Eagles. That about sums Brady up – when he gets hot and feels confident watch out – he can light up that score board. However if you can pressure him early and rattle him he can be taken out of a game.
He comes in this week with an injury to his right elbow picked up on one of the 5 sacks he suffered last week. Reports out of New England say that the injury has taken something away from his throwing velocity. If that is true it presents an opportunity for the Redskins secondary to step in front of the odd pass. This is a game which might come down to which defense can make the key turnover to change field position.
Make no mistake though Brady is a very good QB – thankfully so is Pat Ramsey.
While the 3-4 defenses can cause some problems, the Patriots do have some problems with their 3-4 this week. With Roosevelt Colvin and Ted Washington hurt, Ted Bruschi becomes more important than ever in the scheme of the Patriots plans. An 8 year pro whose production has dropped in the last two years mostly due to injuries, he has started this year with a bang. His team leading nine tackles vs. the Jets last week, as well as four passes defended, one forced fumble and one sack he has had this year make him a formidable foe.
The question remains as to whether Bruschi still has the speed to keep up with a back like Trung to the outside. Betts is more of a north-south runner, and that will play right into Ted's strength. However, if Trung can get some room on the outside and accelerate, Bruschi may have problems tracking him down. Combined with flat and underneath passes, look for Ted to be busy chasing the Skins backs all over the field with the rest of the Patriots linebackers.
It may start out being Bruschi's advantage unless Spurrier elects to use plays to the outside right away. As the game wears on and the Skins can keep the game close and continue to run, expect Trung to start having longer and longer runs as he did in limited 4th quarter action vs. the Jets. Combined with effective up the middle and off tackle runs by Betts, Bruschi's day could end up being a very long one.
Troy Brown’s problem this week is that he's virtually the only established wide receiver option for QB Tom Brady. With David Patten questionable with a knee injury and the other Patriots WRs failing to step up, the Redskins can focus their attention on the 11-year vet to keep him out of the game. Other teams have been doing that already, mostly by double-teaming Brown and forcing Brady to look elsewhere. Brown's only gotten 9 catches for 69 yards on the year.
But the Redskins are likely to glue cornerback Champ Bailey on Brown for one-on-one coverage (thus freeing up another defender to turn his attention elsewhere). It should be a good match for the silky-smooth Redskins corner. He has size on Brown--the receiver is only 5-10 and 196 lbs; Bailey gives up four pounds to him but is two inches taller, as well as faster on the open field. Brown is one of the best receivers in Patriot’s history, though, and has been the soul of the Patriots’ offense for several years (as evinced by his work in the 2001 season leading to their Super Bowl victory). He has a knack for getting open--he is quick and he runs crisp routes and he often seems to have glue on his hands, the kind of athletic receiver that should make Bailey's day. Bailey has the additional burden of playing with an apparent chipped bone in his wrist and a sprained shoulder, though he has declared himself well enough to play and doesn't plan to modify his technique (he says he'll deal with the pain after the game). It might be that Bailey is playing with a chip on his shoulder as well--he gave up two touchdowns against the Giants last week after only giving up two passes in the previous two games, and wants to make up for it.
Look for the Patriots to test the soundness of Bailey's wrist early on--if he can play through the pain up to his normal high standards, he should soon take Brown out of the equation. Expect a defensed pass or two in the first quarter, though he may well give up some short passes; there won't be much by way of the double-moves that get Bailey into trouble (as in the Giants game)--Brown doesn't have the foot speed to blow past Bailey. Expect Bailey's tackling to suffer a little due to his wrist injury--he won't be able to get the leg-wrap he often uses without some pain.
The Jets fans are frustrated..."how could we possibly have let this one go!?!?!" In his first three weeks, "the one that got away" Coles has racked up 23 receptions for an impressive 391 yards, averaging 17.0 yards per catch. In addition having three consecutive 100-yard games to start the season, Coles also now has 23 yards rushing on his only rushing attempt! In short, this guy can do it all...and he is certainly going to be a hand-full for any opposing corner in the league.
Against New England, look for the Redskins to establish the running game due to the absence of NT Ted Washington. Once the Skins get the running game going, look for the play action....and while you're at it, look for Coles. Coles should benefit greatly from the strength of the Redskins running game this week. It will open up a lot of space for him and he will surely take advantage.
But wait...won't he be defended at all?
That responsibility will likely fall on CB Ty Law. Unfortunately for Law, he hurt the lower part of his right leg about a minute before halftime last week (against the Jets) but did manage to come back in the game. As of this writing, it's difficult to say just how serious (or even if it is serious) his injury might be. It is safe to say, however, that he will not likely be 100% this week. To cover Coles, however, he's gonna need to be 130%.
Law only has 4 passes defensed this year so it seems as though teams haven't really been going after him. Having 13 tackles thus far (12 solo), however, shows that he's not afraid to get into the mix when needed. Unfortnately for Law, he really hasn't gone up against a WR of Coles caliber this year. Let's take a look:
Last week, against the Jets, he had to deal with Curtis Conway (12 receptions, 179 yards) and Santana Moss (9 receptions, 171 yards). Both of these receivers don't equal one Laveranues Coles!
In week #2 it was a reeling Eagles team. Law had it easy then, too, because he only had to face James Thrash (11 receptions, 126 yards) and Duce Staley (10 receptions, 62 yards). Again...no one on that team comes close to the caliber of Coles!
In week #1, Ty Law faced Buffalo. This was the only time Law faced someone to challenge him. Eric Moulds (13 receptions, 244 yards) is talented....but, in the likely words of Patrick Ramsey to Eric Moulds: "I know Laveranues Coles!" "Laveranues Coles is a friend of mine!" and "Eric Moulds, you are no Laveranues Coles!"
Look for Ty Law to have a LOOOONG week this week. Coles is going to have a great day and there is nothing Law will be able to do to stop him.
Kevin Faulk is a 5 year vet out of LSU that was drafted in the 2nd round (46th overall). Although listed on the Patriot's depth chart as the #2 running back behind Antowain Smith, Faulk has more rushing attempts (17) and a much better per rush average (5.0 YPC) so far in 2003. He has yet to score a TD so far this season.
In 2002 Faulk amassed 1,440 all-purpose yards while playing in 15 games. He also tied for 2nd on his team with 7 TDs (3 receiving, 2 rushing, and 2 on kick returns). Faulk also became the first player in Patriot history and was the only player in the NFL to record multiple TDs in three categories.
Jeremiah Trotter is our stud pro-bowl (2000 & 2001) linebacker signed as a headline grabbing free agent from Philadelphia in April of 2002. He currently leads the Skins in tackles with 27 (16 solo) and has defended two passes. Trotter got flagged on an untimely unsportsmanlike conduct penalty last week, and will be looking to make amends for that embarrassment this week.
Look for Trotter to have a big game against Faulk and the Patriots.